HE to friendo who recommended Robert Connolly‘s The Dry (IFC Films, 5.21): “I have to ask — what was it about The Dry that impressed you so much?

The Dry rehashes every cliche in the quiet, laid-back whodunit book — a dispassionate outsider stirs up local resentment and all kinds of buried business by investigating a killing. ‘Stay out of this if you know what’s good for ya, mate,’ etc.

“It was a big hit earlier this year in Australia so I figured it had to be at least fairly good. Not that much!

“Remove the parched Australian landscape and the heavy accents, and it’s basically another Hercule Poirot ensemble piece, or an episode of Australian Colombo. Ross McDonald’s Lew Archer books used this basic template over and over.

“It was good to visit again with Bruce Spence, whom I first came to know via George Miller‘s The Road Warrior (’82).

Spoilers: “Those swimming hole flashbacks wouldn’t stop! And that hardbound diary and those photographs hidden behind a boulder? And the old flame (Genevieve O’Reilly) reveals an odd secret at the end? And the father of the dead girl killed her way back when? Boy, there sure is a lot of buried history in the little town of Kiewarra.

More spoilers: “The shaggy-haired, moon-faced guy with a wife and a kid killed another family OVER A GAMBLING DEBT, and then he runs into the forest and sets himself aflame when he’s found out? And then the persistent hero (Eric Bana) + a local constable (Keir O’Donnell) burn themselves by trying to put out the flaming killer by HUGGING HIM? What kind of insane bullshit was that? You either smother a fire with a blanket or douse it with water — you can’t stop a fire by HUGGING IT IN SLOW MOTION.

“Yes, they were trying to prevent a forest fire, but who willingly burns themself in order to achieve this end?

“I was covering my face with my hands and moaning out loud as I watched this thing. I’m sorry to say that the Bana curse is just as strong as ever — he can’t star in a good film. His karma won’t allow it or something.”